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A Message from CRS Pres. David Rudnick: An Update for the Past Presidents of Rodef Sholom

04/22/2021 03:26:14 PM

Apr22

David Rudnick, President

April 20, 2021

Dear Past Presidents,

One year ago, at the beginning of this period of personal and institutional uncertainty, I wrote to you with updates on a number of important fronts.

A year on, I wanted to reach out again before our virtual get together Wednesday night.

COVID Disruption, Innovation, and Planning

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 ushered in a period of significant challenge and corresponding rapid evolution for all organizations, including Congregation Rodef Sholom. As you are all aware, our staff and clergy rapidly adopted virtual programming, content, and ritual, including a fantastic set of virtual High Holiday services. We have had almost universal positive feedback from congregants, and engagement has increased in many areas (such as kabbalat Shabbat) since the start of the pandemic. New communal programs and rituals have started, such as community havdalah every week, and morning meditation twice a week. We have invested in technology and personnel with expertise in sound and video production. And yet, we also recognize that not everyone has been served equally by online content, most especially older congregants with little or no computer skills. We have redoubled efforts to identify, reach out to, and support congregants who are isolated and not able to connect virtually. We are now in the process of intense scenario planning regarding re-opening the shul to in-person events and worship, and are considering options for this year’s High Holidays, which will likely be a hybrid of in-person and online offerings. Our Fall 2020 Board of Directors retreat was a hybrid event to analyze the lessons we can learn from the disruption and accompanying innovation COVID has brought, and to brainstorm action items moving forward to leverage our identified strengths, and mitigate our weaknesses. To read the summary report, click here — 2020 BOD Retreat Report.

Financial Operations

Under the steady leadership of Michael Kamler and our treasurer Ben Argov, we have had a solid financial performance during a very difficult time. In June 2020, with limited ability to forecast for the upcoming year, the board passed a short continuing resolution deferring adoption of a new budget until first quarter financial results arrived. After the High Holidays, we passed a budget that projected revenue to drop by nearly $500K, and reduced expenses by $250K. We applied for and received a PPP loan for the remaining $250K and as of March 31, 2021, with the PPP loan recently forgiven and converted to a grant, we project that we are likely to run a small surplus for the fiscal year ending June 30. Importantly, both membership and Tradition of Giving remained strong, with most of the revenue drop attributable to lost programming, primarily in the religious school.

Capital Campaign

This last year has been one marked by extraordinary achievement and deep loss. So much of the force behind this campaign to-date has been a tribute to our great leader and former Board president Martin Brotman z’’l, who passed away unexpectedly this past December. At the same time, Martin left behind an extraordinary commitment to success as well as momentum that has carried us forward under the leadership of campaign co-chair Bruce Gribens, along with the Core Committee of Lee Battat, Beth Katz, Rebecca Lien and Marc Press, along with Rabbi Stacy and Michael Kamler.  I am thrilled to announce, for the first time to any group, that as of last week, we have raised $22.5MM, or 80% of the overall campaign goal of $28MM. 

The original strategy, long ago conceived with the guidance of our CCS consultants, was to move the campaign to a broader more public phase once we reached this important milestone. A strong pipeline for gifts to get us to our ultimate goal remains, and when the present social distancing restrictions end, we look to do more in-person type events eyeing the fall for a full public roll out.  

We plan to continue the work on the Campaign in earnest. We are identifying captains at each giving level for the next set of solicitations. The goal is to have an overarching sense of belonging and shared values as we proceed, making sure each gift feels like it was meant to be.

On the staff side, as some of you may know, we hired James G. Leventhal as Director of Institutional Advancement last August. James’ background is varied and mostly in museums, including seven years as the Director of Development at the Judah L. Magnes Museum (Berkeley, CA) then as a Deputy Director at The Contemporary Jewish Museum for five years. James has brought tremendous energy and expertise to Rodef Sholom, and in less than a year has established himself as a crucial member of the effort to rebuild Rodef Sholom, and as a valued and trusted partner in the operation of the synagogue.

Building Remodel

In parallel with the momentum of the Capital Campaign, the building project has entered a hopefully accelerated phase. Our campus partners had originally planned to embark on renovation along with ours, and this had required us to seek a new Use Permit for the entire campus. Ultimately they have decided to postpone their projects, and that has allowed us to enter Design Review instead, which is a more straightforward, if still challenging level of county entitlement. Under the direction of Sacred Space co-chairs Marc Press and Russ Pratt, Michael Kamler, and our architect Steve Rajninger, we have now submitted a full packet for review, a process likely to take about 6 months. Concurrent with this we are proceeding with building documents so that when approval comes, we will be ready to apply for a plan check and a building permit, a process likely to take an additional 6 months. Our consultants are actively reaching out to community stakeholders, and thus far we have received warm support for the project. A team is creating a web site for the building including FAQs, architectural images, and room for reminiscences about the old building and discussion about the features and benefits of the new building.

Synagogue Wide Initiatives

Rodef Sholom continues to thrive and look to the future. We are deep into the process of hiring a new executive director. A team led by our President Elect Ed Grossman and including past president Hali Croner are doing an outstanding job of vetting and interviewing three exciting final candidates. We have a Cantor Search Committee led by Amy Fredericks and Ed Zimmerman and they have started to engage with the American Conference of Cantors and to begin to envision the next era of musical culture at Rodef Sholom after Cantor David ‘s retirement in June 2022. We have fully transitioned from legacy synagogue management software to Shul Cloud, which allows us far more robust possibilities for communications, payment, scheduling of programs, and CRM. We have a website design team that is shepherding a process to rebuild our website with updated branding, functionality and organization. Rabbi Elana has recently presented to the Board a Sacred Code of Ethics created with a group of congregants, including past president Lisa Pavlovsky. This important document will serve to augment our culture of belonging and improve our awareness and practices around diversity, equity and inclusion. Rabbi Lara has returned from maternity leave, and is actively envisioning a hopefully fully in-person youth program for next year with our youth leader, Rudy Brandt. The Board of Directors has strengthened the cultivation and nomination of leaders, and we have just been presented with three new candidates for board service with outstanding qualifications, vision, and energy.

I thank you for your continued support of the synagogue and understand that the vibrant institution that Rodef Sholom is today is built on your hard work and accomplishments.  I welcome any questions or suggestions you may have for me, and once again, wish you all good health and shalom.

David Rudnick

President, Board of Directors

Sun, October 24 2021 18 Cheshvan 5782